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Marzemino fights hard for first-up win

Classy mare Marzemino survived a late scare in Saturday’s Roger Gill Agriculture (1200m) at Pukekohe to make a winning start to what could be a career-defining campaign.

The daughter of Per Incanto has made a big impression in lower grades in previous preparations, winning five races including four from six starts last season.

Trainers Peter and Dawn Williams now believe the five-year-old is ready to step up to the big time, with her itinerary featuring the Gr.1 Sistema Railway (1200m) at Ellerslie on January 1 and the Gr.1 New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders' Stakes (1600m) at Te Aroha in April.

Marzemino lived up to her $2.60 favouritism on Saturday with a first-up win, but she had to earn it by turning back the challenge of another quality mare.

Regular rider Andrew Calder allowed Marzemino to slide forward to take the lead within the first 0 of the race, and she appeared to be doing things easily despite setting a good pace.

Marzemino produced a kick at the top of the straight, but then she was tackled by Yearn, who sprinted impressively after being caught wide throughout the race.

However, after looking vulnerable for a few strides, Marzemino lifted again in the last 0 and held Yearn out by a neck in a quick time of 1:09.43.

Stakes-placed mare Rikki Tikki Tavi made up good late ground from second-last to finish third.

Now the winner of six of her 11 starts, Marzemino has earned more than $98,000 for owner-breeders Haunui Bloodstock, Garry Madill and James Orton.

Calder has been aboard for five of those six wins and has become one of her biggest fans.

"We've been waiting for a while for her to come back," he said. "Her two trials leading into this were really good. She's come back in good order. She's big and strong and did well over the winter. She looks like she's in for a good season.

"She was going easily in front and is able to run good sectionals with ease. But I was a bit worried when I felt them wearing us down in the straight, I thought she might have just peaked on her run first-up.

"But then she found that little bit extra, like a good horse does.

"She runs good times every time she goes out there. I wouldn't be surprised at all if she breaks 1:09 this year."

Both of Saturday's main protagonists are likely to return to Pukekohe for their next starts on November Marzemino is pointing towards the Listed Counties Bowl (1100m), while the multiple Group Two placegetter Yearn will step up in distance in the Gr.2 Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders' Stakes (1400m).

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